Jerez Test Day 3: Massa silences doubters with mega laps in the F138

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F138. Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday 7 February 2013.

Felipe Massa was untouchable in the Ferrari F138 on day three at Jerez

At the end of the second day of testing at Jerez there were murmurs doing the rounds that Ferrari may be in trouble with their F138, but the team stuck to their guns by saying they were adhering to strict programme which did not involve hot laps – fast forward 24 hours and Felipe Massa ended the day top of the timing sheets.

Felipe Massa Ferrari F138.

Felipe Massa Ferrari F138.

Just before midday local time Ferrari unleashed Massa, with soft Pirelli rubber bolted to the F138, who proceeded to scorch around Jerez in 1:17.879 and half an hour later popped a 1:17.886 for good measure, to prove that this was no fluke – no more murmurs.

Massa played down the significance of the fast laps, “It’s always nice to arrive at the end of the day and see your name in first position but honestly it doesn’t count for anything.”

Nevertheless, for Ferrari fans it will come as a relief that the F138 has some genuine pace under its pretty skin, after the disappointment caused by last year’s F2012. Their optimism not helped by the fact that for the first two days in Spain this year the Ferrari was around 1.6 seconds down on the top times.

But on day three, while Fernando Alonso worked out in the Dubai desert, Massa signaled that the Ferrari this year may well be strong from race one in Australia, as he ended the day almost a second up on Nico Rosberg and half a second better than Romain Grosjean’s best the previous day.

After two days where the Mercedes W03 only did 26 laps in anger, it was also a big relief in the Silver Arrows camp that Rosberg notched up an impressive 145 laps on the day; by far more than anyone else and showing a good turn of speed to end up second fastest.

Nico Rosberg pitstop

Nico Rosberg pitstop

Next up, third quickest, was reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel in action for the first time this year. Taking over the cockpit of the Red Bull RB9 for the last two days of the test. He ended the day third on the timing screens, just over a second down on Massa’s top time but faster than Mark Webber’s best the previous day.

Vettel said at the end of the day, “In terms of the times, it’s always nice to be on top, but if there’s one phase of the year where it matters least, it’s here. Now is the time to do our homework. It’s good for us to do a lot of laps, to see that the car is working well and we’ll go from there.”

Also making his first appearance of the season was Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus E21, who ended the day fourth fastest and a second down on his teammate Romain Grosjean, who ended his stint in the car with the fastest lap on the previous day.

Raikkonen’s day was somewhat compromised with a clutch issue, limiting his running to 40 laps. But the Iceman remained cool about it all, “It was good to get behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car again. The E21 feels quite good so far, even if the balance isn’t quite to my liking yet. We know the car can go faster, we were just running through what we needed to achieve.”

Sebastian Vettel with Adrian Newey

Sebastian Vettel with Adrian Newey

“It’s a shame that we had a clutch issue at the end of the day, but that’s why we come testing so we can find these problems and fix them,” added the 2007 world champion.

Jean Eric Vergne was in action for the first time in the Toro Rosso STR8 and was fifth fastest with 85 laps to his credit, despite causing a red flag when he stopped out on track in the middle of the afternoon.

Next up was Force India’s simulator driver James Rossiter, having his second run in the VJM06, and ending sixth fastest with 42 laps to his credit before handing over to Paul di Resta in the afternoon.

But it turned out to be a short run for the Scot when a problem with the exhaust curtailed his session with only seven laps on his chart at the end of the afternoon.

After a stunning opening day for Jenson Button in the Mclaren MP4-28, it was a far more subdued day of work for the 2008 world champion who clocked up 83 laps, and the seventh best time. He brought the day’s proceedings to a premature end when the McLaren stopped out on track with a few minutes left to run.

Kimi Raikkonen back at work

Kimi Raikkonen back at work

Fastest rookie was Esteban Gutierrez having his first run in the Sauber C32, completing an impressive 110 laps and setting the eighth best time in the process.

Marusia new boy Max Chilton was one of the few drivers to set their best time during the afternoon run, when he went ninth fastest in the MR02 late in the day.

Making it a trio of rookies, from eighth to tenth, was Valterri Bottas in the Williams FW34, the Grove based team still the only squad running last year’s car.

Charles Pic was 11th on the time sheets in the Caterham CT03, with Di Resta slowest of all when the chequered flag fell to end the day.

Testing resumes for a final day at Jerez tomorrow (Friday).

Jerez Testing Day 3 Results – Thursday, 7 February 2013

P Driver Team Times Gap Laps
1 F.Massa Ferrari F138 1.17.879 85
2 N.Rosberg Mercedes W04 1.18.766 +0.887 148
3 S.Vettel Red Bull RB9 1.19.052 +1.173 102
4 K.Raikkonen Lotus E21 1.19.200 +1.321 40
5 J-E.Vergne Toro Rosso STR8 1.19.247 +1.368 85
6 J.Rossiter Force India VJM06 1.19.303 +1.424 42
7 J.Button McLaren MP4-28 1.19.603 +1.724 83
8 E.Gutierrez Sauber C32 1.19.934 +2.055 110
9 M.Chilton Marussia MR02 1.21.269 +3.390 78
10 V.Bottas Williams FW34 1.21.575 +3.696 86
11 C.Pic Caterham CT03 1.22.352 +4.473 57
12 P.Di Resta Force India VJM06 1.23.729 +5.850 7
Stoppages :
  Drivers Team  Red Green
1 C.Pic Caterham 11h26 11h35
2 J-E.Vergne Toro Rosso 15h02 15h05
3 J.Button McLaren 16h57 –h–
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